Retired justice says campaign finance ruling made cash king

WASHINGTON Thu May 31, 2012 12:40pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama awards a 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John Paul Stevens during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 29, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama awards a 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John Paul Stevens during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens leveled new criticism on Wednesday against the court's landmark 2010 ruling on campaign financing, saying it had allowed corporations to ramp up spending and non-voters to influence the outcome of elections.

Stevens, who dissented from the "Citizens United" ruling, said it had increased the importance of cash in contested elections, opened the floodgates for foreign campaign spending and put corporations or other out-of-state speakers ahead of voters interested in local issues.

The Supreme Court split along conservative-liberal ideological lines in making the 5-4 ruling in 2010, giving corporations the constitutional free-speech right to spend freely to support or oppose candidates in federal elections.

The ruling triggered a massive increase in spending by wealthy individuals and corporations in federal campaigns ahead of this year's November 6 presidential and congressional elections.

"A rule that opens the floodgates for foreign campaign expenditures will increase the relative importance of out-of-state speakers and minimize the impact of voters' speech that addresses purely local problems," Stevens said remarks for a conference in Little Rock hosted by the University of Arkansas.

Stevens, who wrote an impassioned dissent at the time of the ruling, said the court may already be having "second thoughts" about the breadth of the reasoning in the majority opinion.

A text of his remarks was released by the Supreme Court in Washington.

Stevens said he agreed with President Barack Obama's criticism of the ruling - that it reversed a century of law, that it authorized unlimited election-related expenditure by America's most powerful interests and that the logic of the opinion extended to money spent by foreign entities.

Obama's criticism was delivered in his 2010 State of the Union address, with a number of the Supreme Court justices present. Conservative Justice Samuel Alito could be seen mouthing the words "not true" in response to Obama's comments.

Stevens said that in the future, the court would have to issue an opinion explicitly crafting an exception to the 2010 ruling to make clear it does not extend to foreign corporations.

He said the fact that corporations had no right to vote should give Congress the power to exclude them from direct participation in the electoral process.

(Reporting By James Vicini; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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Comments (11)
ozzyz12 wrote:
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito could be seen mouthing the words “not true” in response to Obama’s comments –

Regarding Alito: if he did say not true, then he is a liar or an idiot.

May 30, 2012 11:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
dhartshorn wrote:
It would be nice if the Justice or the author had taken the time to note that the top contributors under the relaxed rules are unions, not corporations. The basic point remains true, there is a lot of money in play, but to completely ignore the changed status of unions and the preeminent spending of unions is shoddy work.

May 30, 2012 11:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RoaringFish wrote:
Obama and Stevens are absolutely right. Corporations are not people. This case was a great example of Republican activism polluting the Supreme Court, with the five Bush and Reagan appointees toeing the party line.

To protect their corporate backers, the Republican controlled SC has extended the principle of free speech far beyond any sensible limit, to the point where those with the most money are allowed to drown out the speech of those with less resources. In doing that, they have undermined democracy and turned the USA into a corpocracy.

Money is not speech. Advertising is not speech. The Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003) that the SC over-ruled did not stop anybody voicing an opinion. They only stopped them shouting down dissenting opinions.

The SC has become partisan, and extension of the Republican party to be used when they can’t win a political argument. This is why they have taken Obamacare to the SC – they know they can’t win the political battle, but have a good chance of getting their puppets to by-pass democracy and rule against it legally.

May 30, 2012 11:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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